12 Tips for Buying the Best House

March 24th, 2016 by Barry Twynam

RealEstateAdPhotos 269Looking for a new home this spring in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County, the Edmonton region and elsewhere?  You won’t be alone in your search as we head into the busy season in real estate with more homes on the market, and more people looking for homes.  With so many things to consider when shopping for a new home, how can you make sure you end up with the best house for you?

I’ve written before on this topic, and the advice in these blog articles is still solid.  It applies equally well to experienced home buyers as to those looking to get into a first home.  Take a look at these articles and then see more tips below:

Buying Your First Home?  Start With Your Lifestyle

Buying Your First Home?  8 Tips to Guide You Through the Process

More Tips:

  1. Saving a down payment is just the start.  Remember that you’ll need money for much more:  legal fees, home inspection, property taxes, home insurance, utility hook-ups, maybe some fixing up of the new house (or your old one), purchase of furnishings, moving costs (not just transportation of your possessions but also fuel costs, meals while en route, possible hotel stays and so on).
  2. Buy the home you can afford, the one in the middle of your price range.  Calculate the total of your monthly mortgage payment, home insurance, property taxes and mortgage insurance (required if your down payment is less than 20% of the purchase price of the home).  This total should be less than 35% of your gross monthly income.  More conservative advisers suggest this amount should be less than 25% of your take-home pay (equal to one week’s paycheck).  Whichever calculation you use should leave you with a comfortable amount of money for everything else in your life.
  3. Buy the house with good bones but ugly finishing.  Dirt can be scrubbed off, holes in walls can be patched, hideous wall colours can be painted over.  Chances are good a tired and shabby home will be 1000s of dollars cheaper than the house that is loaded with glitz and glamour with everything finished.  Look beyond the surface aesthetics for a house that is structurally sound, well constructed and with its systems (roof, furnace, plumbing, electrical, etc.) in good shape.  The time and money you invest in cleaning up the place, re-painting and even adding new flooring and the like will almost always be less than the price you would pay for a home with everything done.  And your hard work will dramatically increase the value of the home.
  4. On a related note, buy a modest house in the nicest neighbourhood rather than the best house in a not so great neighbourhood.  The home in the good neighbourhood will always be worth more than the exact same house in a lesser neighbourhood, and it will retain a higher value because of its association with more extravagant homes located nearby.  What’s more, its value to price ratio will almost certainly be greater than that of the more expensive homes in the area.
  5. Keep firmly in mind the difference between your needs and your wants.  What are the things you absolutely have to have that can’t be changed by renovating (such as a quiet neighbourhood)?  Your needs are the things you can’t compromise on, but maybe there can be some leeway in things that would be really nice to have but which you could live without.
  6. Pay close attention to the report of your home inspector.  It is sometimes possible to use certain things in a report (such as structural damage or items not built according to code) to reduce the price even after negotiations have been completed and the Purchase Contract signed.  In any case, the report gives you a detailed list of items to fix after you take possession of the home.
  7. Study your mortgage options carefully.  To start with, having a great credit rating will allow you more choice.  You can save a lot of money by:  putting a minimum of 20% down (to avoid paying for mortgage insurance), opting for a shorter amortization period (if you are able to afford higher payments), paying weekly or bi-weekly instead of monthly, paying property taxes yourself instead of having them added to your mortgage payment.  There is some disagreement about whether it’s best to lock in a fixed rate on a mortgage or opt for a variable floating rate.  A fixed rate might give you more peace of mind, knowing what your payments will be for the term of the mortgage, but a variable rate could save you money in certain circumstances.  Ask your lender lots of questions!
  8. Know the market.  Questions to ask your realtor:  What have houses sold for in the area you’re considering?  How competitive is the market?  Do houses routinely sell well below the asking price?  Or could you end up in a situation where houses sell for more than the asking price?
  9. Research the neighbourhoods you’re interested in. Look for things like crime statistics, type of housing in adjacent areas (high density housing or mobile home parks typically decrease the value of nearby single family homes), proximity of commercial development, traffic patterns, type of land houses are built on (you don’t want a reclaimed landfill or bog), income and occupations of residents, and so on.
  10. Condos and housing cooperatives are a good fit for many people but their Homeowner Associations almost always have extensive rules and accompanying fees and fines.  These never go away, frequently go up, and can sometimes come with nasty surprises when additional fees are levied.  Make sure you educate yourself thoroughly before you commit to this type of home.
  11. Could you use this home to create revenue?  Does the home have an in-law suite or room you could rent out if you needed extra cash?
  12. Distance from the neighbours and lots of space in the yard are great, but think about maintenance and its cost.  A long driveway means more snow to shovel in the winter, and a huge lawn means a lot more time spent mowing instead of enjoying our too short summers on the deck.

 

I’m always happy to help my clients find just the right home for them!  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

 

Fire Extinguisher Know-How

March 1st, 2016 by Barry Twynam

Fire Extinguisher Know-How | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County real estate | Barry TwynamHow many fire extinguishers do you have in your Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County or Edmonton area home? Do you know how to use them? Have they been re-charged recently? We are often told that the switch to or from Daylight Saving Time is a good time to check the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Maybe it’s also a good time to do something about fire extinguishers.

How Many?

If you have only one fire extinguisher in your home… well, that’s better than none, but ideally, there should be one close to every heat source, or anywhere you might be using an open flame. So, one in the kitchen for sure. One in the family room or living room if you have a fireplace or regularly burn candles. One in the garage, and one near the barbecue. And maybe one extra on each level of your home, just to be safe. It’s a good idea to carry one in each vehicle too.

Learn How to Use a Fire Extinguisher

Make sure after equipping the hot spots in your home with extinguishers that each family member is aware of their locations and that they are readily accessible. Keep in mind that extinguishers are intended for use on small fires to prevent them from becoming large and dangerous. Teach each family member how to use an extinguisher with the PASS acrononym:

  • PULL the pin. This will activate the extinguisher for when you squeeze the handle.
  • AIM the nozzle at the base of the fire.
  • SQUEEZE the handle to spray. Remember that you will get only about 30 seconds of use.
  • SWEEP or move the nozzle back and forth while spraying at the base of the fire.

Maintaining Your Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers are single-use products. After each use, they need to be “recharged” or refilled with the fire extinguishing agent. What many people may not realize is that fire extinguishers, even without being used, will need to be replaced or recharged.   Read about recharging fire extinguishers at Fire Extinguisher 101.   Most fire extinguishers last between 5 and 15 years, and the gauges should be checked once per year. Ask a professional if you are not sure if your extinguisher is still in good working order.

Fire extinguishers used appropriately can save lives and property, preventing a small fire from growing into something that could cause significant damage and tragedy. Well worth the expense of equipping your home and the time it takes to learn about them!

Comments or questions about this article? Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

9 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality in Your Home

February 23rd, 2016 by Barry Twynam

9 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamIs your Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County or Edmonton area home making you sick? If you find yourself experiencing a variety of symptoms such as itchy, watery eyes, a cough that won’t go away, constant sneezing, chronic sore throat, frequent headaches, shortness of breath or asthma, the culprit may be the air in your home.

Indoor air pollution can be caused by a long list of things, including:

  • Smoke, especially tobacco products used indoors
  • Other burning items, such as candles, incense, wood-burning fireplace, gas stove
  • Heating or cooling systems.
  • Off-gassing from building materials (new carpets, new cabinets made of pressed wood, etc.) and other industrial chemicals, such as radon, formaldehyde, fire-retardants, and the like
  • Household chemicals of various types (cleaning supplies, paint, air fresheners, etc.)
  • Personal products such as hair spray, scented soaps, etc.
  • High humidity
  • Poor circulation of fresh air
  • Mould, mildew and dust mites

Winter, when our houses are closed up tight, makes the situation worse. Luckily, there are many things we can do to improve the quality of the air and our health without resorting to camping in the open air in the backyard

1.  No smoking in the house!

2.  Keep your house clean.

  • Vacuum often.
    Choose a vacuum cleaner with strong suction, rotating brushes and a HEPA filter to get rid of all sorts of nasty things. Clean your floors and also walls, carpet edges, draperies or blinds, and upholstered furniture at least once a week. Vacuum mattresses every couple of months.
  • Damp mop the floors after vacuuming.
    Use a microfiber cloth and plain water to pick up dust that the vacuum did not capture. Furniture, baseboards, interior doors and cabinets can also be cleaned of dust using just a damp microfiber cloth.
  • Put a large floor mat at every door and have people remove their shoes to keep outside dirt and chemicals from coming in.
  • Consider getting rid of the carpet in your home (a haven for dirt and dust mites). Replace it with natural materials like solid wood, bamboo or cork. Avoid vinyl floor coverings due to their carcinogenic properties.
  • Launder bed coverings and pillows frequently, especially if you have pets in your home.
  • Clean often or replace filters in your furnace, humidifiers and portable air conditioners. Also clean bathroom and kitchen vents.

3. Store household chemicals, such as paint, solvents, glues and pesticides, outside the home.

Items such as these emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are harmful to people and the environment. There’s a reason containers for these products come with the warning to use only in a well-ventilated area.

4.  Banish artificial fragrances from your home.

Pine, lemon and flowery scents in cleaners, laundry products and plug-in air fresheners may smell pleasant, but those things are loaded with nasty chemicals that can make you sick. Gases emitted by these products contain VOCs and petroleum derivatives that have been determined to be hazardous and toxic. Instead, look for fragrance-free products. Use natural cleaning products, such as baking soda and vinegar. Stop using aerosol sprays such as deodorants, hair sprays, furniture polish, and air fresheners. Use sliced lemons or vanilla extract dabbed on light bulbs or your furnace filter for a lovely natural smell.

5.  Stop household mould.

Mould occurs in areas prone to high moisture such as kitchens and bathrooms. Use exhaust fans and a dehumidifier to keep the humidity down and the air moving. Keep a healthy level of humidity in your home of 30-50%. Repair any plumbing leaks. If you spot mould on surfaces, treat it and remove it while it’s small and manageable. This article from The Family Handyman tells you how.

6.  Invest in an air purifier.

High-quality air purifiers remove dust, dust mites, pet dander, pollen, smoke and other allergens, as well as cooking odors. Some may even remove VOCs. Read what Consumer Reports has to say about these machines.

7.  Increase ventilation in your home.

Fling open all the windows? Sure, if the outside air is fresh – or if it’s not the middle of an Alberta winter! During Alberta’s other seasons, consider using “trickle ventilation”, a special window screen with extra filters that allows fresh air in while filtering out pollutants from both outside and inside the home. Use air conditioning in the summer, if you have it in your home, to move the air and remove mold-causing moisture. Run ceiling fans all year-round for more air-moving experience. Make sure that fuel-burning furnaces, fireplaces, heaters, range tops and the like are vented to the outside well away from windows and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) intakes.

9 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam8.  Improve air quality with house plants.

Best air-filtering plants, according to a study done by NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America:

Bonus:  These plants are among the easiest house plants to grow, even for those without a green thumb!

9.  Test for radon.

This cancer-causing radioactive gas is colorless and odorless. It is produced through the natural decay of uranium found in soil. It gets into homes moving up from the ground through cracks in the home’s foundation. Granite countertops might also be a problem. Read Health Canada’s article on testing for radon.

Do you have other ideas to improve home air quality? Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

Try a Bike Day 2016 with You Can Ride Two

February 9th, 2016 by Barry Twynam

Try a Bike Day 2016 with You Can Ride Two | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam

You Can Ride Two is back at Broxton Park School in Spruce Grove on March 4, 2016 (1-7 PM), adapting bikes for kids with special needs and teaching them to ride. Haven’t heard of this unique organization? Check out my previous blog article detailing the great work they do.   The Rotary Club of Spruce Grove is proud to be involved with this organization.

Exhibits and Vendors

You Can Ride 2’s Try a Bike events include exhibits by many groups supporting children with disabilities, such as the Children’s Ability Fund, Sport Central, Variety the Children’s Charity, Free 2B Me, the Cerebral Palsy Association in Alberta, the Paralympic Sports Association, KidSport, and many others. In addition, select vendors such as Renu Cycle, Trivel and others will be present.

Sponsorship

Sponsorship of exhibits and vendor tables goes a long way in allowing You Can Ride 2 to cover the cost of assigning, maintaining and modifying bikes to meet the needs of children. If your business or service club can help out, please contact You Can Ride 2.

Volunteers

Volunteers (individuals, service clubs, school groups and the like) are urgently needed for a variety of tasks. Bike mechanics in particular are wanted for the March 4 event. Please visit You Can Ride 2’s “Support Us” page for a list of volunteer opportunities.

Donations

You Can Ride 2’s loan pool now has about 120 bikes, and can always use more. Anyone wishing to donate a used bike to the program is asked to bring it to the event. Each bike donated enters you into a draw for a signed Edmonton Eskimos football and helps allow another child to experience the joy of riding a bike. Donations of cash are always welcome as well!

Registration

Currently there are around 110 kids registered for the Try a Bike event on March 4! Parents of kids with special needs are invited to contact You Can Ride 2 for information about this program.

One final thing:  Name You Can Ride 2’s new mascot (supplied by the Rotary Club of Spruce Grove), and you could win a $100 MEC gift certificate!

As a proud Rotarian, I’m delighted to be able to help this worthwhile organization.  Comments or questions? Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

16 Tips to Cozy Up Your Spruce Grove Home

February 3rd, 2016 by Barry Twynam

16 Tips to Cozy Up Your Spruce Grove Home | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County real estate | Barry TwynamOur unseasonably mild winter in the Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and Edmonton region might have you wanting to fling open the windows to let in the bright sunshine and spring-like air, but not so fast! Experience reminds us there is still plenty of winter left, along with the need to keep your home warm and cozy.

Sure, you can crank up the thermostat, put on a warm sweater and brew multiple cups of hot chocolate, but why not try a few of these strategies to make your home snug and welcoming?

  1. No fireplace? No problem! Electric baseboard heaters have been around for years, but today wall mounted electric fireplaces available at stores such as the Home Depot, Lowe’s, Costco, Canadian Tire, even Amazon can provide wonderful ambiance and warmth in any room for a reasonable price. Or, for instant pretend warmth, turn on the fire log channel on your TV, or put on a fire DVD!
  2. During the day when the sun is shining, open curtains wide to let in the heat and light. Make sure your windows are sparkly clean to let in every drop!
  3. Seal air leaks in your home at doors and windows (check your weather stripping), as well as plug-ins on outside walls, the basement where cement meets wood frame, kitchen hood vent, etc.
  4. Block drafts during the cold winter nights by covering windows with double-insulated blinds or insulated drapes. Warm up the room in a surprising way by covering a whole wall in curtains. You won’t have to break the bank to do this either; Ikea has tons of brightly colored and patterned panels for very little money.
  5. Darker walls in a charcoal gray or a chocolate brown create a cozy, cave-like atmosphere. (Surprisingly, darker walls seem cooler in the summer too.) Or, paint your walls in soothing blues, greens, grays and beiges.
  6. Soften up your home with furniture upholstered in touchable fabrics such as chenille. Position the furniture away from outside walls, if you can. Add pillows in bright warm colors and faux fur throws to make your spaces inviting and welcoming. Add more softness with a big fuzzy rug and textured wall hangings. And a big furry cat to cuddle up with, if you’re so inclined!
  7. Put blankets on display using a quilt rack. No need to buy an expensive blanket display rack; an old wooden ladder will do.
  8. Bed cold? Switch to flannel sheets during the winter, and add an extra blanket or a down comforter. Use an old-fashioned hot water bottle or an electric heating pad to warm up the bed in the evening.
  9. Lots of light! Turn on table lamps with the newer LED bulbs that now come in warm hues reminiscent of soft incandescent light bulbs. Hang strings of light for glow and warmth. Light the candles too.
  10. Run your ceiling fans on the “winter” setting. This reverses the fans to move the warm air that has risen to the ceiling down into the room where its warmth is needed.
  11. Use the oven! Bake bread and cookies, roast a chicken, cook a casserole! Add warmth and a wonderful aroma. Or fake the warmth and homely goodness by simmering something sweet-smelling on the stove top.
  12. Books add comfort and character to any room. Good for acoustics too. Create a reading nook with a comfy chair, a big fluffy afghan and a good reading lamp.
  13. Dry winter air often makes a room feel chilly. Run your humidifier to add moisture and warmth.
  14. Lots of green plants and fresh flowers for increased oxygen and moisture will lend a soothing air and make your home cleaner too.
  15. Hang art that pleases you and display family photos.
  16. Soft soothing music!

 

If you’re looking to sell your home in the winter, a warm friendly atmosphere appeals to buyers!
Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

Celebrate! Reconciliation and Relationships

February 1st, 2016 by Barry Twynam

Celebrate! Reconciliation and Relationships | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County real estate | Barry TwynamCelebrate as our local libraries, municipalities, and the Spruce Grove, Stony Plain and Parkland After Dark Rotary clubs share steps they are making to build relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal neighbours in our Tri-Region area.

As part of our desire to engage with our aboriginal communities, the Rotary Clubs of Spruce Grove, Stony Plain and Parkland After Dark helped organize an event to celebrate reconciliation and build relationships with our aboriginal neighbours. We invite everyone to share in this event.

February 3, 2016
6:30 p.m.
Horizon Stage Performing Arts Centre
1001 Calahoo Road Spruce Grove, Alberta

Tickets $30, plus service fees

  • Join Shelagh Rogers, celebrated host of CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter, Honorary Witness to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and Chancellor of the University of Victoria, as she interviews local authors Patti LaBoucane-Benson, Esther Supernault, Tracey Lindberg and Dianne Meili to explore the importance of Indigenous literature.
  • Enjoy musical entertainment with Juno-nominated special guest Asani who will sing in Cree, French and English.
  • Sample traditional Aboriginal foods and visit with local artisans who will explain their creative process and have products available for purchase.

Thank you to our Sponsors:
Rotary Clubs of Spruce Grove, Stony Plain and Parkland After Dark, together with the Rotary Aboriginal Partnership and Norquest College.

Tickets available at the Spruce Grove City Hall Ticket Centre, 315 Jespersen Avenue, by phone at 780-962-8995 or online at www.horizonstage.com/tickets
Proceeds will support the purchase of books by Indigenous authors. For more information, please call Lisa Smith at 587-986-8758.

There is always so much going on in the Tri-Municipal region, and as a proud Rotarian, I’m happy to promote important events such as this one. Comments or questions? Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

The New Couponing: Save Money on Groceries, Part Two

January 25th, 2016 by Barry Twynam
The New Couponing: Save Money on Groceries, Part Two | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Do you feel as though you need to take out a second mortgage these days to pay for groceries in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and the Edmonton region? My recent blog article entitled “Hurting From Alberta’s Recession? 12 Tips to Save Money on Groceries” mentioned coupons as a way to save money at the till.

Where do you find coupons?

The old way was to clip coupons or rebate offers printed in newspapers and magazines, or pick them up at the grocery store. But much greater numbers of the discounts offered by stores and manufacturers can now be found on the Internet. You can achieve surprising savings this way.

Online Coupon Sites:

These websites provide coupons (for many things, not just groceries) that you can print out from your computer, or have sent to you by mail. You will need to spend time familiarizing yourself with each site’s offerings and be aware of regional offers and expiry dates, but the money you save can really add up.

Canadian Free Stuff
Coupon Click.ca
Free.ca
Grocery Alerts.ca  (see especially: (SmartSource printable coupons Smart Source will also send you sample packs of items, but that is a blog post for another day!)
Mrs. January.com
P&G Everyday (Proctor & Gamble:  Samples from P&G too, some of them full size products!)
Red Flag Deals.com
Retail Me Not
Save.ca
Save a Loonie.com
Saveland.ca
Smart Canucks.ca
Simply Frugal.ca
Valpak.com
Websaver.ca

***Check out this digital couponing app — no more printed coupons: Coupgon  (Read “Coupgon: Digital Couponing for Canadians” for the details.)

Cash Back Smartphone Apps:

These apps pay you cash after you upload a photo of your grocery receipt. Usually, the payment comes after a minimum dollar value has been accrued. The advantages to this system are that you don’t have to carry around printed coupons, and often there will be rebates on items for which coupons are almost never offered, such as produce. Here are four of the best:

Checkout 51   (See “Checkout 51: The Ultimate Guide“)

Snap by Groupon  (See “Snap by Groupon: Everything You Need to Know“)

Zweet   (See “Zweet – New Cash-Back Rebate App” )

CartSmart  (See “CartSmart: Canadian Money-Saving App“)

***For even more information about these apps, plus 2 others.

Other Apps:

Two more apps to make grocery shopping simpler and save you money:

Flipp
Enter your postal code and you’ll see dozens of flyers for stores in your area. Set up your favourites list to find flyers for your preferred stores. The search feature allows you to find just the items you’re looking for, along with local deals. Price matching is then a snap. You can also create a shopping list if you tap on the items you want to buy.

Save.ca Mobile
Browse flyers, redeem cash-back offers, create shopping lists and more.

Do you have money-saving tips to share? Let me know and I’ll feature them in future blog posts. Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

Hurting from Alberta’s Recession? 12 Tips to Save Money on Groceries

January 20th, 2016 by Barry Twynam

Hurting from Alberta’s Recession? 12 Tips to Save Money on Groceries | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamOil prices below $30 per barrel, much higher prices at the grocery store, and paying a lot more for everything imported as the loonie plunges are leaving many residents of Spruce Grove, Stony Plain and Parkland County bewildered and wondering how to cope.

Financial advisors typically suggest that we prepare and follow a budget, keep track of expenses, spend less than we earn, and so on. What are some easy to follow tips that won’t make you feel that you have to lower your standard of living?

 

Today’s focus is on cutting food costs.

1.  Prepare your meals at home from scratch to stretch your food dollars the farthest. The vast quantities of pre-prepared and processed food items at the grocery store may be convenient but they will cost you more. And if you think you don’t know how to cook – it’s never too late to learn!

2.  Deliberately cook more than you’ll consume for dinner. Then package and freeze the rest for another meal, or plan to pack it for your lunch the next day. Bringing your lunch from home instead of paying restaurant prices will save you big.

3.  Learn what groceries cost. This means educating yourself about how much the price of the same item can differ from one store to another, or from one week or season to the next. Study the prices in the stores and better yet, read the flyers. Some people shop only in the one store that they feel has the best deals or the best selection. Other people visit several stores in order to save the most money on individual items. Find a strategy that works for you.

4.  Plan ahead. Make a list before you go shopping based on: a) what you need for meals for the next week, b) what your family will use up before the next shopping trip, and especially c) what is on sale as listed in the store’s flyer. Stick to the list, and avoid impulse buys. Don’t buy more than you can comfortably store and use. Shop just once a week, or less. You’ve probably also heard the advice not to shop on an empty stomach!

5.  Buying in bulk is cheaper than buying small packages and makes sense for food items that keep for a long time and are used often in your home. Do a lot of baking? Buy the largest bags of sugar and flour you can find (on sale, please!) and store them appropriately. Looking to sample something for the first time? A small package may be more economical in the long run.

6.  Be aware of the tricks stores use to get you to buy more or to buy higher priced items in a particular category. A store in Spruce Grove routinely offers cottage cheese for a special price – but only if you buy three large containers. Good deal if your family consumes a lot of cottage cheese; not so great if half of it spoils before you use it.

Note how items are displayed on store shelves. Higher priced and name brand items tend to occupy the real estate within easy reach and at eye level. Take the time to compare prices between brands and between different sizes of the same product.

7.  Ask yourself if you must have the name brand you’ve seen advertised on TV (for a premium price; they have to pay for that advertising somehow!), or if the generic or store brand item could be just as good. Generic (“no name”) and store brand items are usually manufactured by the same companies that produce the name brand stuff but without the fancy packaging. No name butter? Half the price of the name brand stuff and tastes just the same!

8.  Along with ditching many name brand products for cheaper but just as good no name or store brand items, consider what you regularly put on your plate. Deliberately seek out cheaper options, such as cheaper cuts of meat, “manager’s specials”, or even less meat. Look also for meat and produce that has been discounted. A local grocery store slaps “30% off” stickers early in the morning on meat that is close to its best before date. Substitute cheaper and often healthier and just as flavorful fruits and vegetables, especially those grown closer to home, for more exotic and imported produce.

Hurting from Alberta’s Recession? 12 Tips to Save Money on Groceries | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam9.  In the summer months, patronize your local farmers’ markets for the freshest and healthiest produce. Often cheaper too than what you’ll find at the store. Should you grow your own garden? That depends. In truth, you may not save money since seeds, bedding plants, fertilizer, water and gardening tools all cost money. What’s more, the garden tends to yield its bounty all at once, providing far more than most people can use at one time. However, if your family is large and you are prepared to can or freeze the harvest for later use, a garden can be a good investment in money and health.

10.  Consider eliminating the purchase of some things altogether, such as bottled water and soft drinks, or packaged cookies. This will not only help your wallet but your waistline too!

Other good tips.

11.  Some people advise a cash only strategy for grocery shopping. But many no-fee credit cards give valuable rewards that can lower your grocery bills or help your budget in other ways. If you shop at the Real Canadian Super Store, your President’s Choice Financial MasterCard will give you points every time you use it. Those points, which add up quickly, can then be redeemed for “free” food. Other stores have similar programs; for example, Sobey’s and Safeway offer AirMiles. These programs cost nothing to join and they do pay off!

12.  Paper coupons used to be the way to shave money off a grocery bill. They still exist but the modern way uses a variety of websites and apps that give money off or provide rebates. An upcoming blog article will showcase these apps. Stay tuned!

Do you have other tips to save money on groceries? Let me know and I’ll post readers’ contributions in a future blog article or on social media. Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

Why Wait for Spring to List Your Home? 9 Reasons to Sell During the Holidays

December 14th, 2015 by Barry Twynam

Why Wait for Spring to List Your Home? 9 Reasons to Sell During the Holidays | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamYou might think that putting your Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County or Edmonton area home on the market at this time of year is a bad idea. But there are actually many good reasons to list your home during the holiday season.

  1. People shopping for a new home during the winter months tend to be more serious about a home purchase than those looking at other times of the year. They may be in a situation where moving is not an option since January often marks the start of a new job. Buyers are not only more likely to make an offer, but also more likely to meet your list price, especially as people are apt to be in a good mood at this time of year!
  2. Generally, fewer houses are listed at this time of year. This means less competition for your home now than later in the spring when more homes will come on the market.
  3. Many businesses reduce their hours during the holiday season, meaning employees may have time during the work week, not just evenings and weekends, to shop for a new home.
  4. Some buyers may find themselves in a financial situation where it is advantageous for tax or incentive reasons to make their deal before the end of the year.
  5. You’ve probably spent a fair amount of time cleaning, decluttering and decorating your home for the holidays. Why not take advantage of this natural staging when your home is looking its best?
  6. Your home being on the market does not have to interfere with your holiday plans. You always have the option to specify when showings may or may not occur.
  7. Selling now does not necessarily mean you’d have to move now. It is possible to negotiate a later date for buyers to take possession, or to allow you to remain in your home for a longer period of time.
  8. But, if you sell and move to a temporary residence now, with the intention of buying later in the spring, you can do so with money in the bank and without the pressure of having to write an offer that is conditional upon the sale of your current home.
  9. Mortgage rates remain at record lows so there are still many buyers for whom your house just might be the perfect home.

 

Whether you are looking to buy or sell at any time of the year, I’m here to help. Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

Give Twice with These Energy Efficient Gifts!

November 25th, 2015 by Barry Twynam

Give Twice with These Energy Efficient Gifts! | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamGift-giving season is nearly upon us in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and the Edmonton region. Saving energy and helping the environment are good no matter what season it is. If you prefer giving gifts that are useful and practical, you’re sure to find something to please on this list of energy efficient gifts. And your gift will help the recipient to use less energy and save money too.

For the home improvement fanatic:

  • LED or CFL lights
    Bulbs, lamps, reading lights
  • Home energy monitor, such as the Kill-a-Watt monitor available from Amazon.ca
    Allows the user to track the amount of electricity being consumed by various devices.
  • Faucet aerators and low-flow showerheads
  • Programmable thermostat
  • Window insulating kit
  • Plugs for unused electrical outlets
    Did you know that up to 20% of air leakage from your home can occur through outlets?
  • Ceiling fans
    Keep your home warmer in winter, cooler in summer and help with humidity all year round.

For the home cook and bottle washer:

  • Pressure cooker
    This old-fashioned pot uses up to 70% less energy than traditional cooking and cooks food faster too.
  • Tea towels
    Who says everything has to be washed in the dishwasher!
  • Cold water laundry detergent
    Single-use packs make a good stocking stuffer gift.
  • Energy Star rated appliances of all kinds

For the device geek:

  • Power bar
    These come with all sorts of innovations, such as integrated timer, auto shutoff, and special sockets for charging mobile devices
  • Solar-powered cell phone and battery chargers
  • Solar backpack
    Looks like a regular student backpack but can charge electronic devices. (Check out this one called the SolarGoPack from Amazon.)

For the survival dude:

  • Battery powered radio in case of power outages
  • LED flashlight
    Or how about this hand-crank flashlight from Ikea?  Great gift for kids too.
  • Portable solar panel kit
    The GoalZero Guide 10 Adventure Kit allows you to charge all sorts of things, such as USB powered devices, phones, tablets, flashlight batteries, and emergency radios.

Do you have more ideas to add to this list? Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

Barry Twynam, Realty Executives Leading
#1 14 McLeod Avenue, Spruce Grove, Alberta, T7X 3X3
Tel: 780-962-9696 Cell: 780-910-9669 Fax: 780-962-9699
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